It's that time – to look back and forward. So, I've created my own list of 2022's most notable people. It is personal, with no particular qualifications in mind or justifications – just what struck me about the ability of humankind to be, well, human.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy – President of Ukraine, actor, writer, producer, global hero
Who would have predicted that a man once famous for his career as a comedian and TV producer would prove himself on the world stage, defying a power-crazed Vladimir Putin and harnessing the patriotism and courage of Ukrainians – and, at the same time, win the support of democracies around the world? And have we ever seen a nation's leader appear on the international stage without the trappings of power – the custom-fitted suits, elegant settings, and surrounded by decorated members of the military? President Zelenskyy is, in my mind, the surprise role model of the year. Sincere, committed, and courageous.
Vladimir Putin – Russian Wannabe President for Life (I didn't say my Notables must be eligible for sainthood)
Martial arts expert, former KGB agent, and Russia's very top dawg since 1999. He is shrouded in mystery regarding anything personal. But he's enjoyed putting his prowess on display by appearing as a fighter pilot, a deep sea diver, and with the puzzling photo of a shirtless Putin wearing a gold chain around his neck while riding a chestnut horse across an open field. He's on my list because his ability to underestimate nations committed to cooperative survival is baffling. The insular leader clearly read his tea leaves wrong. Now the bare-chested chief is battling internal critics and chatter about regime change. Oops.
Secretary Deb Haaland – U.S. Secretary of the Interior
Well, it's way past time, but Native American (Pueblo Laguna) Deb Haaland is the nation's first indigenous Cabinet Secretary. She began her journey as a low-income single parent relying on public assistance to raise her family, pay for college and start a small business. After decades of struggle, she dove into public service and eventually led New Mexico's Democratic Party. In 2019 she was elected to Congress, where she highlighted injustices done to Native American populations and environmental issues. She's shining a spotlight on indigenous populations - from the lack of attention to the disappearance of native women to the abuse of Indian children in the nation's boarding schools and beyond. Her ancestral connection to the land and respect for our natural environment shines a new spotlight on issues too long ignored and critically important to our survival as an egalitarian nation.
LeBron James – LA Lakers, NBA basketball star and dedicated philanthropist
The 38-year old King of the Court not only achieves the ardent admiration of basketball fans, but he's also a certified soft-hearted guy who's given millions of dollars to causes close to his heart. Throughout the pandemic, his charity supported elementary school kids and families in need with food and educational materials – even helped to pay teachers' salaries. His foundation donates generously to school programs that help children at risk graduate from high school and then move on to higher education – to the tune of a $41 million investment in tomorrow's leaders. He also established the "More than a Vote Foundation' to increase awareness about voting rights in America. All this while making and breaking records as the NBA’s perennial all- stars.
The Yurok Tribe of California – Harnessing the past to ensure a future
A confession – I have always thought of the decimation and dominance of American Indians at the hands of pioneers, soldiers, and politicians as this country's "Original Sin." That some Indigenous American groups managed to rise from those historic ashes is testimony to the human spirit, and the Yurok Tribe of Northern California is inspirational. The tribe cannot access much of its historical lands but has devoted its allocated acreage as a refuge and restoration site for the critically endangered California Condor - taller than eagles, with a wing span of 9.5 feet. The chicks are carefully housed a few at a time until deemed ready to spread their wild wings. It was the elders of the Yurok tribe who declared the bird' (prey-go-neesh' in their native language) as a keystone species for preservation. The birds are part of the tribe's creation story and play a role in spiritual life that includes a mission to "… heal the earth." Despite surviving amid significant poverty and lack of services most Californians take for granted – the Yurok restoration project creates benefits for the public, the environment, and our collective future.
Chef Jose' Andres - Family, and crews – World Kitchen Central Heroes
Jose Andres migrated from Spain to New York with a slim $50. Through determination, commitment, and the talent of a savant in the kitchen, he grew to be one of the world's most successful and admired chefs and, now, an admired philanthropist. Andres and his family opened WKC in 2010 and, since then, has responded to numerous natural and human-caused disasters throughout the world. His teams provide direct help to families and work with local food and service providers to create a lasting impact in the regions they visit. WCK is first on the frontlines, providing meals, guidance, education, and hope. Andres puts it simply – "(WCK) started with a simple idea at home with my wife Patricia - when people are hungry, send in cooks. Not tomorrow, today."
Mr. Murphy – Goodwill Ambassador, honorable mention
He's short in stature but big in personality. I know nothing more uplifting than spending a day – walking, talking, or just sitting quietly with Mr. Murphy. When I'm not feeling cheerful, he notices and gives me reassurance that I'm loved no matter what. It's a relationship based on complete acceptance of our differences – there's never been a day that a disagreement has come between us. He's a chill guy most of the time, but when something unusual occurs, he's the first to step up and voice his concern. So, I feel protected along with being adored. All this, despite the fact that he never does the dishes. What 18 pounds of shaggy dog can bring to a human's life is surely worthy of an Honorable Mention.
That's my very short list of Notables from my limited perspective up here on our mountain. I'd love to hear something about people (and, okay – pets count, obviously) you'd nominate for an outstanding performance in 2022. Thank you all for staying with me over the past year – I appreciate your attention and value your time. Bring on 2023 – I'm ready, are you?
Thank you, as always, for spending your valuable time with me. Remember, I appreciate hearing from you - your thoughts and ideas - Contact me: email@example.com. Wishing you a safe, healthy, and Happy New Year!
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